Momentum and health key to San Antonio Spurs' chances of defending their NBA title
Injuries are hurting the Spurs
With their dominating 101-74 win over the Phoenix Suns, the San Antonio Spurs wrapped up their 9 game, 3 week long annual Rodeo road trip and are headed home to face the Sacramento Kings Thursday night. Despite being healthy, the team has been uncharacteristically inconsistent and would like to put their three game break to good use before they begin a 6 game home stand over the span of the next 11 days.
This past December was the first month under Gregg Popovich that the Spurs finished under .500 with a record 9-10 and the 2015 edition was the first time the team finished their annual Rodeo road trip under .500 since its inception in 2003. Clealry the team is having problems winning games and injuries has got a lot to do with that. Key players like reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Tony Parker were regularly missing games due to injuries, forcing Popovich to use the team’s no. 11 and no. 12 guys every game till the New Year.
What is missing in the team?
While the world welcomed the New Year, the Spurs were happy to have almost their entire roster fit to play. So given their style of play and their health as a team, many expected the defending champions to start showing their resolve by winning games on a regular basis. Alas the team disappointed registering a mediocre 16-9 this calendar year.
Currently the defending champs are placed 7th in the West with a record of 36-23, they were 43-16 and 45-14 after 59 games in the previous two seasons respectively. San Antonio has always been doubted yet every year they prove their doubters wrong and make it to the post-season. This season is no different, but do they have what it takes to repeat as Champions?
Understanding why and how the Spurs can still win the title this season is simple. All the team needs is basically two things momentum in April or the last 6-7 games of the season and of course the players’ health.
Momentum, Consistency and good team health keys to success
The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat met in back to back NBA Finals. Having said that, the competition level during both Finals isn’t similar. The 2013 Finals went down to the wire to Game 7, the series managed to get that far because the Spurs failed to knock down couple free throws and grab a defensive rebound in Game 6. San Antonio went from almost tasting the champagne to biting the dust.
Next year, they bounced back and absolutely dismantled the Miami Heat, defeating them 4-1 with an average win margin of 18 points. You begin to wonder what changed in the span of that one year? Nothing. It was all about the confidence the Spurs had in their system that they could win no matter what situation they are in. That confidence was courtesy of a franchise record and league high 19 game winning streak last season.
The Spurs became a TEAM during that streak defeating all those opponents by an average margin of 16 points. Mind you 16 is no small number and maintaining that over 19 games is no small achievement. If San Antonio can get some momentum shifting, confidence building blowout games against top Playoff opponents heading into the Playoffs, there’s nothing like it.
|April 1||@ Orlando|
|April 3||vs Denver|
|April 5||vs Golden State|
|April 7||@ Oklahoma City|
|April 8||vs Houston|
|April 10||@ Houston|
|April 12||vs Phoenix|
|April 15||@ New Orleans|
San Antonio is playing a Playoff opponent 4 times in its last eight games with an addition of 2 tough games against the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans. If they can beat all of these opponents, the Spurs have a window of opportunity here to gain some momentum heading into the post-season, which will help their chances of making to the Finals in June.
Although the team was still among the top 8 teams in the West with some of their key players injured, they would prefer to have them healthy and rested come Playoff time. Even with the system they play in, Popovich would love it if all his primary rotation could be healthy when it matters the most. It’s their system that has allowed them to stay afloat in the Playoff race so far, but the Playoffs are different especially in the West.
Just before the Rodeo road trip, the Spurs had a complete injury free squad but since then they have failed to display consistency. They won two, lost four and then won two during the road trip. Nonetheless some consistency, mometum and no injuries would ideally be the reciepe to the Spurs winning their first ever back to back NBA Championships.